How to Manage Stress and Anger with Yoga
For hundreds of years yoga has been valued for its healing qualities; from stabilizing metabolism to increasing flexibility and range of motion, yoga's power to help the mind and body is endless. Some would be surprised to find out that certain poses, breathing methods, and mental exercises based in yoga can even be used to manage stress and anger.
Most of us can admit that at one time or another-we've gotten angry, maybe even angry enough to effect our mood for the entire day, or throw off our interactions with others. Though anger is an emotion as necessary as happiness, we sometimes need ways to calm ourselves down and refocus on what the issue is at hand. When we initially feel a wave of anger, there are several traditional... and not so traditional methods that tie in with many of yoga's teachings that can be used to control anger. Firstly, it is important to realize and accept that you, are in fact angry. Taking deep, cleansing breaths is always your first defense against an outburst or overwhelming feelings of anger. When you've acknowledged the feeling of anger, it is then critical to consider what may happen if you do decide to lose control of your anger, as yoga and meditation focuses so much on self-actualization. When you've followed these steps and still feel your anger or stress spiraling out of control, there are several breathing exercises and yoga poses that can help! Here are 5 tips and poses straight from yoga class to help curb anger:
1. Savasana, or corpse pose, is one of the most relaxing positions and is valued for its ability to calm the entire body and mind. To get into Savasana, lay on your back with arms relaxed at your sides and palms facing up. Allow your feet to fall open comfortably and let your breath return to it's natural rhythmic state. Focus only on the sound of your own breathing until you feel complete relaxation.
2. Child's pose is great for strengthening the mind-body connection and for keeping us in-touch with how we're feeling. Child's pose is another position designed specifically to calm the muscles and mind, and it built for relaxation. To get into Child's pose, begin by kneeling on all fours. Push back and bring your arms around to the sides of your body with head resting on the ground. To stretch your shoulders reach your arms out in front of you for an extended Child's pose.
3. Nose breathing, one of the lasting traditional aspects of yoga, is an anger-coping mechanism that can be used anywhere. One of the best nose breathing exercises is the Three-Part Breath. The Three-Part Breath, also known as the Complete Breath, is the simplest and most rewarding of all yogic breathing exercises. It is both purifying and energizing, and, if done slowly and evenly, can produce a sense of serenity and balance. The Three-Part Breath is done by sitting tall and inhaling, bringing your breath deep into your abdomen (try placing a hand on diaphragm or abdomen to make sure you're breathing deeply enough), then into your rib cage, and finally into your chest and throat. Exhale completely, letting negative thoughts and emotions go. Try to make the length of the inhale the same amount of time as the exhale to achieve the full effect of this exercise.
4. Relaxation Breath is a slow-paced technique used to induce a state of deep relaxation and centeredness. It's another simple exercise that can be utilized for stress and anger in daily life as it can help reverse the physiological effects of stress, including lowering the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure. To practice Relaxation Breath, lie comfortably on your back and relax your body from any tensity. Place your right hand on your chest and your left hand on the upper part of your abdomen. Breathe so only your left hand rises during the inhale and falls during the exhale. Your right hand should remain virtually motionless. Make sure to give an equal amount of time to the inhale and exhale.
5. If you're someone who can't sit still with your anger, or if breathing exercises haven't worked for you in the past, try something more intense! You can do a series of poses to quickly push away anger and reap the hormonal benefits of exercise. A great 3-part series of poses is Half Sun Salutation to Plank Pose, to a more relaxed pose like Savasana or Child's Pose. To begin with the Half Sun Salutation, stand straight up, with feet together and hands folded in front of your chest (as if you were praying). While inhaling, sweep arms up and focus on your fingertips, making sure to keep waist pushed outward. Exhale deeply, bring palms down to the floor into a forward fold position while being careful to keep head tucked. Next, inhale deeply while bringing the body into a an upward forward fold, finally, bring arms back above head, allowing hands to meet, you can repeat this pose as needed. A great pose to follow the Half Sun Salutation is Plank Pose. Plank Pose is achieved by basically holding a push-up position. Start with hands parallel and shoulder width apart, making sure legs are straight, push up with your arms and core, making sure to engage your gluts, hold this pose for as long as you can. You'll then want to round out your practice with a relaxation pose, like Child's Pose.
For more tips and poses like this you can read Beth Shaw's YogaFit: Second Edition, or visit us at YogaFit.com